Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month and Sunday, May 16th is Mental Health Sunday. The worship service for that Sunday will encourage us to learn all we can and do all we can in the area of mental health.

As a WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness, we will be observing Mental Health Awareness Month, beginning with the Tools2Thrive found in this article, in conjunction with the Tools2Thrive page of our website, and the Orders of Worship for each week in May.

Through these tools, we trust that you will find support and assistance regarding the mental health challenges you may face. If you have family members or friends who may benefit from the Tools2Thrive or the support you can give, please make sure you share the information.

Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are disorders of the brain. These illnesses are medical conditions that result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life when left untreated.

Anyone can have a mental illness. One in four adults experiences a mental-health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder. About one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder.

Most mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan, which may include medication, individual or group therapy and activities, and other support services.

Mental illness can disrupt a person’s ability to work, care for himself/herself, and carry on relationships. It affects every aspect of life. However, because mental illness may not be immediately visible to others, the person can be negatively judged as being weak, lazy or uncooperative. This lack of understanding can lead to the stigma of people with mental illness.

Friends and family members feel the impact of mental illness experienced by their loved one. Those feelings can be varied, and family members, friends and caregivers need to be supported amid their experiences.

Some might feel protective of their loved one. Others may feel embarrassed by the social stigma associated with mental health challenges. Still others may feel angry. All may feel helpless to provide support and encouragement. This range of feelings is common, and friends and family members may feel all of these at different points and should be encouraged to seek professional counseling as needed.

You may have heard the phrase, “If you can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to care for someone else?” It is important that you become aware of signs that indicate your need for self-care by engaging in a support group or speaking with clergy or a counselor. This video and the following list may help you recognize those possible signs in yourself or others.

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or don’t grasp what changes others are describing)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are not alone. If you or someone you know is in need of support, feel free to reach out to The WISE Steering Committee: Pastor Jim, Vickie Ashenbrenner, Mike Astle, Judy Jondahl, Kay Klinkenborg, Phil Ladd, Nancy Nonini, Andrea Stefanov, or Pastor Paul.

You can also utilize any of the phone numbers or services listed below. Keep this handy “Taking Charge of Your Mental Health” guide at your fingertips and watch for more information in the weeks to come.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Help Line 1-800-950-6264

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.TALK

Veteran’s Crisis Line 800.273.8255 press 1

Pastoral Care—Pastor Jim Alexander 623.792.5295

Mental Wellness Education Month at The Palms

October 2020 is Mental Wellness Education Month at The Palms. Each week this month, you will be provided with information you can use to become aware of the stigma associated with mental health. There are significant gaps that exist within our society making it difficult for individuals to receive proper care, support and treatment. From our faith communities to our insurance companies, retirement communities to our criminal justice system, attention must be given to the dismantling of this stigma and the tearing down of barriers so that journeys of resiliency and recovery can take place. Here is a list of the items to look for as the month progresses in the weekly Order of Worship and on the Tools2Thrive page.

Tackling Mental Health Stigma—Strength Over Silence

National Alliance on Mental Illness Ambassador Chris Hubbard

Discovering My Superpower—Strength Over Silence

National Alliance on Mental Illness Ambassador A.J. Mendez

You Are Not Alone—On The Road to Recovery

Listen to two stories from people with one or more mental conditions and how they are helping to break the stigma associated with mental wellness issues.

You Are Not Alone—Write Your Own Story Through the Psalms

Kay Klinkenborg will guide us to write our stories of healing, resiliency, and journeys to wholeness not matter where we are on the pendulum of mental wellness.

As a part of Mental Wellness Education Month, a group of 11 Church of the Palms members will be attending a virtual Mental Wellness First Aid Training Seminar on October 19th. Upon successful completion of the seminar, this group will be certified in Mental Wellness First Aid. They will understand what to look for and how to provide comfort, reduce distress related to stressful situations, and to call for proper professional assistance for the person experiencing a mental-health crisis. This training can be likened to using a first aid kit: they will learn how to be present, apply the ointment of comfort, the band-aid of protection against further stress, call for the professionals, and remain on the scene until that help arrives. The training could also be thought of in light of taking a CPR class. They are equipped to spot the signs of a person in distress and apply life-giving techniques until help arrives. Upon successful completion of the training, they will be available as resources on campus should the need for mental wellness assistance arise.

The training of this group is one of the last remaining steps in the process of The Palms becoming a W.I.S.E. Congregation for Mental Wellness. The W.I.S.E. Steering Committee has just completed and forwarded the W.I.S.E. for Mental Wellness Covenant Statement and W.I.S.E. for Mental Wellness Confidentiality Statement to our Church Council for approval. These statements along with the group of Certified Mental Wellness First Aid participants will be presented at our Annual Meeting in January 2021 for adoption by the Church. Once the Church adopts these items, we will apply to The United Church Of Christ Mental Health Network to be recognized as a W.I.S.E. Congregation for Mental Wellness.